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Hardship in Europe's PIGS countries

The unflattering acronym PIGS has been coined to refer to the eurozone's most financially troubled and debt-laden countries - Portugal, the Irish Republic, Greece and Spain.

Here four people from those countries describe their experiences.

IOANNIS MATZAVRAKOS, 25, NETWORK ENGINEER, ATHENS, GREECE

The situation in Greece is pretty bleak and seems to deteriorate by the month.

Ioannis Matzavrakos
The salaries here are not nearly enough to get by if you want to pay all your debt
Ioannis Matzavrakos

I earn a salary of approximately 13,500 euros and I fear that in the future the austerity measures for civil servants will expand to all business sectors, including private firms such as mine.

This is a common fear for many people my age here. If it happens, I will have to start planning my emigration to another country, inside or outside the EU.

The salaries here are not nearly enough to get by if you want to pay all your debts - I have student debt which will eat up a third of my income for the next five years.

The wages in Greece are also too low to have a car loan or a mortgage - let alone think about having a family.

Prices are going up, taxes are going up but wages are staying the same and for many in the public sector especially, they threaten to go down.

Because of the austerity measures planned for 2011, 2012, and beyond, it promises to be a horrid three-year period.

So there is a lot of frustration and people are finding it hard to plan for the future.

The EU bailout plan will hopefully do some good, but the view here is generally pessimistic.

The only tangible solution is for everyone who can get out of this country to rush and do so.

Greece is a wonderful place to visit, but I would not currently recommended living here on a permanent basis.

VERONICA WALKER VADILLO, 31, STUDENT, ALCALA DE HENARES, SPAIN

The situation in Spain has been bad for a very long time, most likely due to the inefficient work of our last three governments.

Veronica Walker Vadillo
A poll found 56% of young adults from Spain did not have aspirations for the future. It's just sad
Veronica Walker Vadillo

We cannot buy houses because they are very expensive and the banks are refusing to lend money.

When they do, people find themselves married to the banks for most of their lifetime, while our parents could easily pay for their houses in eight years with just one salary 30 years ago.

I don't think I will ever be able to buy an apartment.

We can't even rent, because owners are in debt and they won't lower the prices. The average monthly salary is between 800 and 1,000 euros, but rents start at 600 in Madrid.

Because they don't trust people a lot of landlords ask for six months' rent in advance, which isn't actually legal but they get away with it.

I work part-time in a shop in Madrid but I could not afford to rent in the city so I had to move out to Alcala, near the capital.

We have not seen an increase in our salaries but the government has raised the tax they take out and in July will raise sales tax from 16% to 18%.

A poll from last November found 56% of young adults from Spain did not have aspirations for the future. It's just sad. Smart people will start emigrating somewhere else.

When I have completed my PhD in archaeology in two years' time my idea is to get out of Spain and find a job somewhere else - probably the US or Britain.

I don't think it's going to get better at all here.

CARLOS FILIPE MIRANDA COLLACO, 45, UNEMPLOYED CIVIL ENGINEER, LISBON, PORTUGAL

Carlos Filipe Miranda Collaco
I have had to make economies. I haven't had a holiday since losing my job
Carlos Filipe Miranda Collaco

By now, at the age of 45, I had hoped I would be buying a home and setting myself up in life.

Instead I am unemployed and living with my parents.

I am a civil engineer and have worked in several countries including England, Norway and Oman.

But in December 2007 I was suddenly let go from my job. It was very painful.

But I was very optimistic at the time. I thought I would find another job within three months, or even six at the most.

But I have been let down several times.

In November 2008, just as the downturn hit Portugal, I was offered a job in South Africa but no sooner had I got a work permit than the job just disappeared.

I am not married, don't have dependants and I don't have a mortgage.

In Portugal your unemployment benefits are stopped after two years, so I am now beginning to eat into my savings.

I have had to economise in order to save money. I haven't had a holiday since losing my job.

Portugal has real structural problems and has had them for decades.

It will take a strong government and a sense of collective purpose to change some of those problems.

TONY WINTERS, 25, UNEMPLOYED SOFTWARE ENGINEER, DUBLIN, REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

Tony Winters
Competition for jobs is fierce
Tony Winters

Competition for jobs here is fierce, especially in the computer industry where I work.

A few years ago there might be 20 people going for the same job, but now it's literally hundreds.

I have had two interviews in four months but quite often you don't even get a reply to your application.

I got a degree from University College Dublin, worked for a year and then went back to get a master's degree.

In 2008 when I left college you could walk into the job of your choice or literally take your pick.

I joined a small software engineering firm but about a year later rumours started circulating about the company.

The pay was late one month and at the end of November 2009 we were told the bad news - we were given our marching orders. I had to cut down on my spending straight away.

I signed on the day after I lost my job but I had to wait 14 weeks for any social welfare. The whole thing was a pretty harrowing experience.

Fortunately I don't have a mortgage or a family to look after. There are people who are worse off than me.

Dublin and Cork haven't been as badly affected as the Irish midlands, where loads of companies are going into receivership.

I have thought about emigrating to Australia but it's not like when people moved to America 30 years ago. There's no guarantee of a job over there.

I now live on 194 euros a week in benefits but I still have to pay off a student loan, which is about 250 euros a month. In fact I missed a payment last month.

Do you live in Portugal, Ireland, Greece or Spain? Have you got children or other dependants? Are you a pensioner? Send us your comments and some information about yourself - age, occupation etc - using the form below.

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